Star Wars: Return of the…Six Film References Not Used in My Rotten Tomatoes Piece

I first saw Star Wars: A New Hope when I was weeks old. I don’t remember that specific viewing. I do remember watching it on HBO every Saturday morning–before mom and dad woke up–for several months straight until HBO cruelly replaced it with On Golden Pond. The original trilogy set my expectations for what all movies should be.

Smokey and the Bandit? Too Earthy. Give me some spaceships.

The Black Hole? Too boring. Give me some action.

The Last Starfighter? Too…not Star Wars. Give me some Star Wars. Seriously, I still can’t put my finger on why The Last Starfighter didn’t excite me, other than it’s not Star Wars.

The locations, the creatures, the sounds, the technology, the characters, the music used in Star Wars–it all engrossed me. And I’m not alone. Star Wars is the most influential movie of my lifetime–maybe of all time. You don’t just find its DNA in other movies; you find direct references. Writers, directors, producers, actors, editors, special effects crews, composers–all continually pay homage to the film series that helped inform who they would become as filmmakers.

For May the Fourth, Rotten Tomatoes hired me to put together a list of Star Wars references. I wrote 16 of the best references you’ll find in movies (that RT had media rights to). RT had me write two more, then didn’t use six I had originally written. Instead of letting those fade into the ether, I decided to post them.

Here’s the article I wrote for Rotten Tomatoes: 12 BEST STAR WARS REFERENCES IN FILM

Here are the others–which include a clever, almost meta use of a romcom trope; a daydream come to life; a note on how Star Wars has become an accessible part of our language; the funniest reference to date; a mediocre reference that took way too much research to not include; and a bully’s sly reference that makes you care even more about the main character.

Failure to Launch (2006)

Romcoms love to co-opt nerd culture. The writer wants to make a one-dimensional character relatable and just throws in a Star Wars reference. In many cases, it’s lazy character building, but in other cases it’s a useful storytelling tool. Failure to Launch offers the latter. Professional interventionist Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker) utilizes Star Wars to develop a character within the movie plot. She gets “techie guy” (real-life Star Wars nerd Patton Oswalt) to fall in love with her by praising the original Star Wars trilogy and comparing him to Luke Skywalker on the path of the Jedi. In this clip, Paula explains to her clients how using this technique, she can get their son to fall in love with her. She says you just have to “look nice, find out what they want, and then you pretend to like it too.” Most movies do just that–pretend to like Star Wars to gain nerd cred (see Serendipity and What Women Want). Failure to Launch defies that trend by cleverly folding the overused plot device into the story as a tool deftly wielded by Paula.

Indian in the Cupboard (1995)

Who didn’t grow up dreaming about their Star Wars figures coming to life? You’d have Boba Fett and Chewie battling Skeletor at Castle Grayskull then celebrating the victory with cocktails in Barbie’s limousine hot tub. Frank Oz, the voice of Yoda, helped bring that dream to reality in 1995. The movie Indian in the Cupboard featured a cavalcade of toy heroes duking it out–including Darth Vader dueling a T-Rex. You can even hear the ZZZVVVRRROOOOOOM of Vader’s red lightsaber. For many of us, seeing this moment in the trailer sold the movie. Frank Oz reportedly asked his buddy George Lucas for the rights to Darth Vader. Orion, which made the picture, owned the rights to Robocop. It makes you wonder what Jedi mind tricks Oz used to get the rights to the Star Trek toys that also came to life in the cabinet.

Se7en (1995)

Star Wars is so prolific, it’s become a reference point for many people. Its characters, places and dialogue can serve as placeholders for descriptions, feelings and metrics. In Se7en, Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) is brash and unrefined–the opposite of the poised and thoughtful Detective Somerset (Morgan Freeman). Their reference points couldn’t be more distant, yet the universality of Star Wars leads them to a new angle on the case. When the two talk about the profile of the serial killer they’re hunting, Somerset says it’s clear the person is methodical and patient. Mills fires back with, “He’s a nutbag! Just because the fucker’s got a library card–doesn’t make him Yoda!” Detective Somerset is a man who quotes Hemingway and can immediately identify a line from “Paradise Lost.” Detective Mills is not that deep, but he does know Star Wars. He uses Yoda as a reference when speaking about a wise and methodical being. Somerset knows the reference and understands that even Yoda had to study somewhere to gain the knowledge he has. That’s what leads them to the library, hunting for a new lead. In many ways, their relationship in Se7en is similar to Yoda and Luke–the teacher passing on what knowledge he’s gained before he leaves the world.

Superbad (2007) 

Superbad (2007)

Every generation finds Star Wars in their own way–through the series and cartoons, the newest movies, the original trilogy or the prequels. For those of us who grew up with the original trilogy, it’s hard to wrap our minds around any other path. That’s why one joke in Superbad hits us like a Force blast. Officer Slater (Bill Hader) and Officer Michaels (Seth Rogan) are talking to McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) about being cops. Slater uses a Yoda-like voice to call Michaels his padawan. He then turns to the backseat and asks McLovin, “You familiar with Yoda from Attack of the Clones?” Hader delivers the line so fast that before you can process what he’s saying, the scene moves on. People who grew up on the original trilogy are stuck thinking ‘Wait–what did he say? Does he think Yoda debuted in Clones?’ Rogan and Hader are well-known Star Wars fans and brilliant comedians. They know exactly what they’re doing when they tweak Star Wars originalists here.

Sunshine (2007)

Sunshine (2007)

You never know where inspiration will come from. Academy Award nominee Alex Garland may have found his inspiration from an unlikely place: young Anakin Skywalker. Garland wrote the script for Danny Boyle’s sci-fi thriller Sunshine. One line has stood out to Star Wars fans. The villain Pinbacker asks, “Are you an angel?” It’s the same question Anakin asked Padmé Amidala the first time he met her in The Phantom Menace. Apparently, Danny Boyle had no idea where it came from. He loved the line. In the director’s commentary on the Blu-ray, Boyle says, “I just came back from the publicity tour–and I was told, I didn’t realize that this line, this wonderful first line he’s got, is a reference to–there’s a line in Star Wars like it.” Garland has not publicly confirmed that Anakin inspired him to use the line. But, all Star Wars fans know how the lines, the story and the characters can seep into our brains and expose themselves at unexpected times.

Wonder (2017)

Wonder (2017)

Star Wars is a universe for people who feel like they don’t belong. It’s a place to escape–a place to dream. And when you meet someone who shares that love for Star Wars, it becomes a place where you feel connected to something bigger. Wonder pulls you toward that moment as you see a lonely child about to connect with a potential friend–but the carpet gets pulled out from underneath him and you. Ten-year-old Auggie has a facial disfigurement and struggles to fit in. In this scene, Auggie’s teacher asks students to share something everyone should know about them. Auggie talks about his love of Star Wars. Another student shows interest, leading to a discussion about favorite characters. In most movies, this is the point where the seed of friendship is planted. But in Wonder, the other kid turns the discussion into an attack on Auggie–comparing him to Darth Sidious (who we see standing menacingly in class). Auggie’s fellow students and the teacher didn’t get the reference. That makes Auggie feel isolated. But that feeling passes when he hears another student across the room talk about kindness. Wonder is full of Star Wars references if you want a little taste of a galaxy far away but don’t want to stray too far from reality.

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